Some important milestones will be reached this weekend as the Bahrain International Circuit will become a night race for the first time since its initial inclusion to the F1 calendar a decade ago, thus following in the footsteps of the successful Singapore Grand Prix.
There has also been an unwanted political side to Bahrain’s history in Formula 1. Back in 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring, tensions in the region caused the race to be cancelled. Even upon its return the following year, not everyone welcomed it with open arms, but a sense of tranquility has descended upon the track.
For what will be the 900th world championship Grand Prix this coming weekend, Jenson Button gears up for a milestone of starting his 250th Grand Prix on Sunday, putting him fifth on the all-time starters list behind Jarno Trulli, Riccardo Patrese, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.
Nico Rosberg is now 150 not out, and will be gunning for his second race win of the season. The momentum certainly lies with Mercedes following two convincing wins so far this year, but it is Lewis Hamilton who trails in the drivers’ championship and is perhaps in more need of a win this weekend.
Red Bull still have their issues, but the team made a step forwards with Vettel’s podium in Sepang last week. Ricciardo’s troubles, however, were even more public than on home soil and suffered more fuel sensor issues, before a bodged pit stop lost him a lap, and then the front wing decided to go its separate ways from the RB10. The smile will be on his face as per usual, but beneath the surface there is a driver who is desperate to record his first points of the seaosn.
Williams have had more success at this early point of the season than in the past few years, as both of Grove’s new chariots bagged a handful of points in Malaysia even with the embarrassing team order debacle. The water between team and drivers has now settled, but it shows just how much as changed for Felipe Massa since changing team. Imagine if he had refused to let Fernando past at Ferrari like that?
McLaren will look to better their fortunes after Malaysia where the team endured a mediocre weekend. Both Magnussen and Button did pick up some good points, though, proving that the Woking-based team is looking better that this time last year, having been on the back foot in 2013.
Ferrari had a weekend of dramas and fight backs that showed that Fernando Alonso is not to be discounted from the title fight, even though he had to wrestle with that F14T, which is still posing a few questions that need to be answered by Maranello’s finest. Kimi Raikkonen’s Malaysia hopes were dashed on lap one by Magnussen, and the Finn was forced to settle for P12 come the chequered flag.
Off track, the opinions continue to surface about the noise that the “new” F1 brings, especially with the fact that Vettel had to resort to profanities to describe exactly what he thought. Sergio Perez has labelled F1 as “boring,” and Luca di Montezemelo even visited Bernie earlier this week to talk about what could be done in the best interests of the sport. This is one debate that is set to just keep on going…
In a moving gesture by the officials in Bahrain, turn one has been named after Michael Schumacher for this year’s race following his skiing accident at the end of last year. The seven time world champion remains in a medically induced coma, and the entire Formula 1 paddock will have him firmly in its thoughts this weekend.
So the dark of night beckons the drivers, and the teams face further trials and tribulations in the fight for survival and technical understanding, as the sands of time will soon run out when racing gets underway.
Images courtesy of Mercedes AMG Petronas, McLaren Mercedes and Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Getty Images.